Running Out of Options
I am a runner. I feel like since I’m in the middle of training and fundraising to participate in the New York marathon this year, I can officially say that. I can talk about compression socks and kinesio tape with the best of them, and debate the merits of chia seeds with seasoned professionals. Or at least anyone who gets it. Being that I also live in New York, most of my training has been done in and around the city. I’ve had to plan out routes online, avoiding tourist traps and major intersections, and try to find just enough open stretches of space to make it 16 miles; trust me, there’s only a certain amount of times that one can loop Central Park without wanting to go absolutely bonkers.
This also means that I’ve had to search out places for running gear; gels, shoes, the aforementioned compression socks (which compressed a little too well, I’m afraid) and good places for that perfect post-run bagel with smoked salmon. Now, for those unfamiliar with the city, New York is a big place. A huge place. A college friend of mine once joked that Boston was the size of Central Park (we went to school just outside of Boston) and now I see that this is true.
Due to the size and girth of this utterly mystifying city (NYC, not Boston), I’ve had to rely on internet searches more often than not to find places and what I need. For instance, my running needs require some bizarre items, and I need to find certain stores and businesses that cater to this. Googling gets one do far – to the closest major sporting-goods stores, mostly. So where are the small running businesses hiding?
Well, according to a new report by the Center for an Urban Future, specialty stores run by kindly, knowledgeable folk are less visible online. You see, the report reveals many mom-and-pops do not have websites or do online marketing; this information was gleaned from a survey of 239 small business owners across the city. In terms of online presences, smaller stores seem to be scant: 81% of non-lower/middle income (LMI) businesses reported having a website and only 59% of LMI businesses did. Two-thirds of respondents said they used social media, and only 60 percent of those surveyed said that they had an email address tied to a professional domain name associated with their business.
In the same release, Jonathan Bowles, the Center’s executive director made the telling comment: “Technology is no longer an option for small businesses to remain competitive. It’s absolutely essential in today’s digital age.”
While I’m not saying that everyone has to rush out and set up their own website, the message here is clear: having a digital homebase and footprint are now necessary for one to be found online. Yes, many people shy away from Facebook because they’d rather not see ex-classmates from years ago, but from a business perspective, a Facebook page may make the difference between someone eager to spend lots of money on running gear coming to your niche store, or having to sadly trek back to a faceless big box.
There’s been a huge shift in how we receive information, and how people market their companies and themselves. For the most part, these changes are subtle, but it’s a surprise when such a reminder clues one in to how differently we operate today. And while no one wants to see a reduction in the opportunity to choose where and how they shop, it seems that smaller companies are going to need education and access to digital tools in order to remain competitive in the future.